A family-of-three’s trip to the beach in the northeastern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte ended in tragedy Tuesday when a section of a cliff collapsed and buried them under the sand.
Authorities identified the victim as married couple Stella Souza, 33, and Hugo Pereira, 32, and their seven-month-old son, Sol Souza.
Good Samaritans flocked to the spot of the accident on Pipa beach to remove the rocks and discovered that Stella Souza was still holding her son in her arms, protecting him from the fallen rocks.
Igor Caetano, who operates a business at the beach, told Brazilian online portal G1 that Sol Souza was still breathing when the family was dug out of the rubble. A doctor who was nearby rushed over and attempted to revive the baby boy before he died.
The family’s pet dog was also found dead.
The beach is located in the municipality of Tibau do Sul. High tides crashing against the cliff’s base had caused it to erode over time, forcing city officials to post warning signs of potential landslides.
Fábio Pinheiro, a city government spokesman, said the family had been advised of the potential risks of sitting near the cliff by an inspector moments before the tragedy.
The Fire Department of Rio Grande do Norte has yet to provide a report as to what caused the cliff to collapse.
The couple met lived in the Praia do Amor neighbourhood near Pipa beach and were enjoying their day off before tragedy struck.
Hugo was employed as the manager of Morada da Brisa, a holistic hotel in Pipa, and had garnered national attention for his travels around the country in a minivan.
Stella, who also leaves behind a second son from a previous relationship, was studying psychology at a local university.
Hugo, Stella and Sol were laid to rest Wednesday.
Sânzia Maria described her daughter and son-in-law as a couple who ‘loved each other very much.’
‘They were very happy, a very happy family. Hugo was a wonderful man who took good care of Stella and Sol. They were people who only left happiness,’ she said.
The pair’s admiration and respect towards each other were shared all over Hugo’s Instagram account.
In November 2019, he posted a photo of a pregnant Stella with him lying on the shoreline of a local beach.
‘I caught the most beautiful mermaid, the most beautiful soul,’ he wrote in Portuguese. ‘We planted a little seed and it is germinating … I promise a lot of love.’
Prior to meeting the love of his life, Hugo garnered national attention after he quit his job as a coordinator and travelled across 24 Brazilian states and five continents accompanied by his dog, Brisa, who passed away in 2018.
“Hugo was a spectacular human being, always with a smile on his face, high spirits, he was very happy to be a father,’ said Pedro Holanda, the manager of the hotel where Hugo worked at. ‘He was a very family guy, he loved animals, nature. He was an enlightened human being. We are dismayed and do not understand why all this is happening.’